SQM’s Local Greenhouses Donates 30,000 Vegetables to the Community
Since the pandemic struck, hydroponic farmers have experienced a dramatic drop in sales while need in the surrounding community has increased. As a result, SQM decided to purchase all the produce from the company’s Atacama Tierra Fertil greenhouses in Pozo Almonte and Quillaga. The company coordinated with authorities, social organizations and SQM’s corporate volunteers to distribute the produce to soup kitchens, senior citizens clubs and other beneficiaries.
A seal of entrepreneurship with social value marks the hydroponic greenhouses that SQM operates with farmers from the towns of Pozo Almonte and Quillagua through the Atacama Tierra Fertil Program (ATF). Despite the pandemic, they have continued working to supply vegetables to soup kitchens, institutions, social organizations and area residents who have lost their jobs or experienced a reduction in income during the public health crisis.
In the context of the COVID-19 and in keeping with the commitment to the community, SQM coordinated with municipal authorities and social organizations to donate approximately 28,000 heads of lettuce in the Tarapacá Region, in towns like Alto Hospicio, La Tirana and Iquique. Meanwhile, in the Antofagasta Region, 4,000 vegetables have been distributed in Quillagua, Tocopilla and María Elena.
Pablo Pisani, Director of Communications, Sustainability and Public Affairs at SQM, explained: “During the public health emergency and in keeping with our commitment to the regional development plan, ATF program greenhouses have continued operating, striving to achieve the program’s main objective of growing high-quality local produce to supply the area. In the current context, the production has become timely social aid for the hardest hit areas surrounding our operations.”
The executive emphasized the results of the program, which has provided local farmers, stockbreeders and entrepreneurs access to training and consulting services as they create their own initiatives to boost their household incomes. The program offers support, even in times of crisis like the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Camila Azola, President of the Quillagua Hydroponic Cooperative, notes that “this initiative is very good for us. This greenhouse began with four people and now there are eight of us. The company pays us a bonus for meeting production targets and pays for the produce, which is distributed in our towns of Tocopilla and María Elena. We are very proud to produce in Quillagua, known as the driest town in the world. We are also contributing to the community thanks to a program that employs locals and generates additional income for our families.”
Cristóbal Jiménez, Un Techo para Chile’s On-Site Coordinator for the Pampa Alto Hospicio Sector in the Tarapacá Region commented that “the company has always concerned itself with the needs of soup kitchens. Moreover, they were the first to donate and have continued to do so throughout the emergency. The community is very grateful for the support and would especially like to highlight the quality of the produce grown by local farmers. During the pandemic, the number of soup kitchens reached eleven. The figure has since dropped to six but could increase again when quarantine restrictions return. That is when families need this type of help the most.”
Both greenhouses are sponsored by the SQM Atacama Tierra Fértil Program in conjunction with the Municipality of Pozo Almonte in Tarapacá and the Municipality of María Elena in Quillagua in the Antofagasta Region. These projects provide local farmers with sustainable infrastructure, specialized consulting services and a supply of highly soluble nutrients produced by SQM to create the best conditions for growing quality agricultural products in less time to supply fresh, healthy produce to the community while creating local business opportunities.